Off the Beaten Path: Naeng Myun at Han Song Ting’s New Digs
"The spicy cold Korean noodle soup that I like to call liquid air conditioning."
Han Song Ting was one of my favorite stalls in the now defunct Roosevelt Food Court. Next to a Sichuan spot and across from a Taiwanese dumpling specialist, it offered such Korean dishes as bibimbap and samgyetang alongside Chinese dumplings. The reason for this cross-cultural menu? The owners come from Shenyang, China, where many people are of Korean ancestry. Several months ago I learned of its new location thanks to a sign on the gate of the former Roosevelt Food Court. Everything was in Chinese save for an address; “37-02 Main Street.”
When I arrived, I walked to the back of a largely untenanted mall and saw the familiar green and white sign and a bunch of guys putting the finishing touches on the kitchen. The proprietor’s daughter asked how I found the place and I mentioned the sign. “Oh, you read Mandarin?” she asked. “Nope, but the address was in English,” I replied.
I was told Han Song Ting would be unable to serve samgyetang, a restorative chicken and ginseng soup, in its new space, but they urged me to come back for freshly made noodles. And I have been doing so ever since—in the form of xian ya leng mian, which is Chinese for naeng myun, the spicy cold Korean noodle soup that I like to call liquid air conditioning. Since we are truly in the dog days of summer, I now feel a moral obligation to inform the hungry masses about this haunt of mine whose secret I have kept for so long. A look at the noodle engine and the soup itself after the jump.
Naeng myun is traditionally made with buckwheat flour, but Han Song Ting uses wheat flour. It’s a departure from tradition that’s entirely forgivable since each batch of noodles is made fresh to order. A ball of dough is placed in the noodle engine, which extrudes a serving of noodles (with a hydraulic whoosh) into a vat of boiling water. Shortly thereafter, the noodles are shocked with cold water and then the broth and other ingredients are added.
Those other ingredients include a half hard-boiled egg; lightly pickled cabbage; julienned cucumber; sesame seeds; cilantro; slices of star anise-scented beef; a few ice cubes; and goodly amounts of dried red chili flakes as well as gochujang, a chili and fermented soybean paste.
Alternating bites of cool, chewy noodles with the spicy cold soup is quite refreshing. The broth cools down the body while burning up the palate. “It’s good for the heat,” the proprietor’s daughter tells me. So good that it’s the only thing I ever order at Han Song Ting these days. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure the combination of all those veggies and spices along with the broth helps regulate one’s electrolyte balance. All I know is I always feel great after forking over $7 and slurping down a bowl.
Han Son Ting
37-02 Main Street, Flushing NY 11354 (map)